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Israel’s Vital Tech Sector to Gain From Return of Army Reservists

Employees of StoreDot, an Israeli company that has developed extreme fast charging electric vehicle batteries, work in a laboratory in Herzliya, Israel, Oct. 2, 2023. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israel‘s wartime economy will get a much-awaited boost as the military gradually releases reservists fighting in the Gaza Strip so they can return to their jobs and jump-start softening growth.

Since the Oct. 7 attacks by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, more than 300,000 Israelis were drafted to reserve duty — many coming from the globally-important high-tech sector — leading to labor shortages and a gloomy national mood that hurt consumer spending and is expected to dent economic growth.

After nearly three months of intense air bombardment and a massive ground incursion, Israeli leaders have hinted that the war is entering a new phase, with a shift towards more targeted operations aimed at eliminating the Islamist group that rules Gaza and rescuing Israeli hostages.

The military accordingly is adjusting deployment plans for its forces in Gaza and other hot spots, first and foremost by starting to send reservists home — at least for a while.

It declined to share specifics about its number of forces, but said the move will “significantly alleviate economic burdens and enable them to gather strength for upcoming activities in the next year, as the fighting will persist, and their services will still be needed.”

Prior to the war, Israel was headed for solid economic growth of 3.4 percent in 2023 and 3 percent in 2024, according to the central bank. Now, the economy is headed for a fourth-quarter contraction and the Bank of Israel sees 2 percent growth this year and next, or zero growth per capita given Israel‘s fast-growing population.

Erel Margalit, who heads one of Israel‘s most active venture capital firms, Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), said the military made a calculated decision.

“They understand you need to go release people to go back to work because going back to work makes Israel stronger,” Margalit said. “Israel is not only strong militarily.”


With inflation easing, the Bank of Israel cut short-term borrowing rates by 25 basis points to 4.5 percent on Monday, its first reduction in nearly four years. The central bank’s policy makers are keeping an eye on the military’s strategy.

The release of reservists will benefit consumer spending, said deputy central bank chief Andrew Abir, which accounts for more than 50 percent of total economic activity.

“People were called up with no warning. In the first month, there was a real mess, because they were in the middle of projects,” Abir told Reuters, referring mainly to high-tech firms.

Spouses who may have been caring for their families alone since October will also be able to return fully to their employment, he said. This is good news for the high-tech sector, which accounts for 12 percent of employment, more than half of Israel‘s exports, 25 percent of income taxes, and nearly a fifth of its overall economic output.

Other signs of economic recovery in real-time data are emerging. Credit card purchases have returned to pre-war levels, Abir said, in “a sign the economy is functioning again.”

Foreign investment, while it has slowed, has not dried up. Startups raised $1.5 billion in the final three months of 2023 in 75 deals, according to data published last week. In 2023, funding fell to $7 billion from $16 billion in 2022.

Geopolitical risks may be off-putting, but they also offer a bigger potential upside, said JVP’s Margalit.

“There are some very good deals to be had,” he said.

Larger, well-funded tech firms have mostly weathered the war, and some have even thrived. Smaller companies, especially those that were hoping to close early financing rounds when the war broke out, have had a harder time.

In some cases, Margalit said, JVP and partner investors have had to inject more funds into these firms in order to “extend the runway.”


Pini Yakuel, CEO of marketing data firm Optimove, said they saw strong growth in the fourth-quarter despite having 41 of 240 workers in Tel Aviv drafted for reserve duty.

“We’ve adapted. It’s a new reality,” he said. “We just kind of, like, pressed on. Focused on what’s most important. Some things were paused, some things were delayed, but you continue to execute.”

His company put non-critical projects on hold and relied on offices abroad to help cover the load. And things will get easier as the absent employees slowly return.

“I notice in the office: ‘Oh hey, you’re back.’ ‘Yeah, I’m back.’ ‘Is it for good?’ ‘No, for the next month. Then they’re gonna tell us if we need to go back [to the reserves] or not’.”

The government took steps to protect the sector. State-funded Israel Innovation Authority set up a $100 million fund to help early stage startups.

In its recent survey, half of young companies only had sufficient funding for six months, said Dror Bin, the authority’s CEO. His fund has invested about $41 million so far.

“We all got our act together,” Bin said. “CEOs and employees realized that if they want to sustain the company’s success and their jobs they needed to refocus themselves on work.

“Despite all the empathy we get from the tech industry globally, at the end of the day when customers abroad need to get deliveries they can’t say that they didn’t get the deliveries because of the war in Israel,” he said.

($1 = 3.6437 shekels)

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French Government Will Hold Commemoration for Victims of Hamas Pogrom Amid Disquiet Over Far Left Party’s Participation

Posters in Paris broadcasting the plight of Israeli hostages in Gaza covered over with pro-Palestinian messages. Photo: Reuters/Magali Cohen

French President Emmanuel Macron will preside over a special ceremony on Wednesday to commemorate the French victims of the Oct. 7, 2023 Hamas pogrom in Israel as a row over the potential presence of far left parliamentarians continues to fester.

A statement from the Elysée Palace on Monday confirmed Macron’s presence at Wednesday’s event, which will take place at Les Invalides in Paris, where the French National Assembly and other leading national institutions are based.

A spokeswoman for Macron’s office pointed out that 42 French citizens were among the more than 1,200 people murdered during the Hamas assault, with a further three still being held hostage in Gaza.

Answering a question from a reporter about whether a similar event would be held for French citizens killed during the IDF bombing of Gaza that followed the assault, she added that a separate memorial ceremony would be held at a date yet to be determined. “It is obvious that we owe the same emotion and the same dignity to the French victims of the bombings in Gaza, and this tribute will be paid to them at another time,” she said. It is not clear how many French passport holders have actually been killed since the French government announced the deaths of two Palestinian children who were French citizens on Oct. 31.

Wednesday’s ceremony will unfold “under the universal sign of the fight against anti-Semitism and through it, all forms of hatred, racism and oppression against minorities,” the official statement from the presidency declared. Each of the murdered victims will be commemorated through the display of a photograph with their name attached. Families of the victims will be present, many of them being flown in from Israel on a special flight chartered by the French government.

The event is already mired in controversy due the announcement of parliamentarians from the far left La France Insoumise  (LFI -“France Rising”) that they plan to attend. LFI has been vocal in its support of Palestinians in Gaza, frequently drawing accusations of antisemitism because of its harsh rhetoric. Earlier this month, the daughter of two LFI MPs was arrested for allegedly antisemitic social media posts in the weeks following the Hamas attack, while another LFI MP faced condemnation over a posting on social media that invoked a popular Japanese manga meme appropriated by antisemites.

In a letter to Macron, members of five of the victims families demanded a ban on the participation of LFI MPs.

“We, families of victims of Hamas terrorists, solemnly demand that any presence of LFI at the national tribute that will be paid to the 42 Franco-Israeli victims of 7/10 be prohibited,” the letter stated.

However, that request is unlikely to be granted. Pointing out that parliamentarians are automatically invited to state-organized ceremonies, Macron’s office stated that “It is up to everyone to assess the appropriateness or not of their presence since the families spoke out and expressed strong emotion,” but notably did not accede to the ban request.

Mathilde Panot, the head of the LFI deputies in the National Assembly, said last week that she planned to attend the ceremony.

“I will be present and I have asked that a tribute be paid to all the French victims of this war in the Middle East, including the Franco-Palestinians killed in Gaza by the Israeli army,” she said.



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Montana Tucker “Bring Them Home” Grammy Tribute for Israeli Hostages Turns Heads

Feb 4, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Montana Tucker at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at Arena in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. Photo: Dan MacMedan / USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

Jewish singer and songwriter Montana Tucker showed her support for Israelis still being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza at Sunday night’s 66th Annual Grammy Awards, an annual ceremony held to honor the record industry’s most critically acclaimed artists.

Posing for photographers, Tucker walked the red carpet clad in a beige, diaphanous corset gown ornamented with a yellow ribbon that said, “Bring Them Home.” She also wore a Star of David necklace.

136 Israeli hostages remain imprisoned by Hamas in Gaza. They have been there since Oct. 7, when the terrorist organization committed a massacre of Jews across the southern region of Israel, the deadliest mass killing of Jews since the Holocaust. Hamas’ fighters brutally murdered and rape hundreds, and according to numerous reports, more are being sexually abused in captivity.

Tucker’s wasn’t the only statement made about the Israel-Hamas war. Ann Lennox, Scottish vocalist of the popular 1980s band Eurythmics — most known for its No. 1 song “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” — called for a ceasefire in Gaza in a speech delivered after she performed a tribute to Sinéad O’Connor.

Raising a “Black Power” fist before a much larger audience than Tucker was accorded, Lennox proclaimed, “Artists for a ceasefire. Peace in the world.”

Lennox was alluding to “Artists4Ceasefire,” a small group of entertainers who issued a letter calling on President Joe Biden to “end the bombing of Gaza” that did not mention that Hamas started the war or condemn rising antisemitism. The letter’s signatories include, among other B-list celebrities, Adam Lambert — who in 2009 won second place in the now-discontinued television series American Idol — Jennifer Lopez, Rosie O’Donnell, and Alyssa Milano.

The Algemeiner honored Montana Tucker in 2022 for being one of 100 people recognized for positively influencing Jewish life. A granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, Tucker was dogged all her life by assertions that she does not “look Jewish.” Undeterred by the remarks, she committed to proudly representing the Jewish community, and in 2022 produced “How To: Never Forget,” a ten-part docuseries about her grandparents lives in Poland before the Nazi invasion.

“This has been my responsibility to do this, for me and my grandparents and everyone else,” Tucker said at the time, during an interview. “People are used to seeing my very light-hearted, fun dance videos and me collaborating with a lot of different people…It’s rare for me and my content, and rare for the platform in general, to have a docuseries on the Holocaust.”

Other pro-Israel activists wore apparel to the Grammy awards to show. Orthodox Rabbi-Rapper Moshe Reuven, whose song “You Are Not Alone” has amassed over one million streams on Spotify, sported a “Never Is Now” shirt distributed through partnership between civil rights nonprofit StandWithUs and Perspective Fitwear. The shirt’s designer is Karen Margolis.

Taylor Swift’s 2022 record, titled Midnights, won “Album of the Year,” and rapper Jay-Z implied during a speech for accepting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award that his wife, multi-platinum artists and most-winning Grammy award winner ever Beyoncé, has never won “Album of the Year” because she is a Black woman. The moment was reminiscent of a 2009 incident in which Kanye West stormed the stage of the MTV Awards to denounce Swift’s winning “Best Video by a Female Artist.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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Israeli Bank Shutter Accounts of Settlers Sanctioned By Biden

A woman uses an automated teller machine (ATM), outside a Bank Hapoalim branch in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 30, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Nir Elias / File.

The Israeli bank accounts of two of the Israelis sanctioned by the United States government last week were closed on Sunday and Monday. Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich spoke out against the action, saying “I will take action as the finance minister and do what I must. If need be, we’ll advance legislation on the matter.” He further called the instance “unthinkable” that it occurred.

The two Israelis, Yinon Levi and David Chai Chasdai, had their personal and business accounts closed by Bank Leumi and Bank Hadoar, respectively. The other two settlers listed bank with Bank Hapoalim, who also said they would close the accounts, saying “Bank Hapoalim respects the international sanctions and will comply with any legal order.”

The Bank of Israel announced their support for the move, saying “Banking corporations, by necessity of their international activities, are required to establish policies and procedures for the use of international sanctions lists and national sanctions lists of foreign countries and for entering into or carrying out operations with parties declared on such lists. Circumvention of sanctions regimes as mentioned, has the effect of exposing the banking corporations to significant risks, among them, compliance risks, money laundering and terrorist financing risks, legal risks and reputational risks.”

Chasdai, who denies any wrongdoing, said “The fact that a government bank decides in the middle of a bright day to seize the bank accounts of settlers solely because of pressure from extreme leftist organizations and a hostile American government is unimaginable, but the fact that this is happening under the tenure of a right-wing government just after the greatest massacre in the country’s history is a national disgrace first class.”

“We have gone through many oppressors who harmed the people of Israel over the generations, we will also go through the persecution of Biden and his aides,” he added.

US President Joe Biden approved the sanctions last week, saying “The situation in the West Bank – in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction – has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability in the region.”

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